Why Are Metals Good Conductors of Electricity?

These free-flowing valence electrons operate as electrical carriers, allowing the metal to transfer electrical charges without resistance throughout its structure.

Not only electricity, but metals are good conductors of heat as well. People from all industries and even households need heat for transferring thermal and electrical energy. 

In this article, you will dive into what makes metal a positive conductor of electricity. Along with that, you will be focusing on the five best conductors of electricity.

Why Are Metals Good Conductors of Electricity?

Metals are good conductors of electricity because the atoms in the metal create a metallic bond, due to which the electrons can move in a free state.

A pool of electrons forms by interacting with metal ions. So, it is easy for energy to flow through metal and thus makes it a positive conductor of electricity.

How Does Valence Electrons Conduct Electricity?

The outermost electrons in an atom are valence electrons, which are the least linked to the positively charged core, making them loose. 

There is a liberation of the “valence” electrons from the atoms in a metal that creates a sea free of electrons that handles the transportation of the flow of current. 

The valence electrons are bound to the valence band, but some will make it to the empty in the conduction band due to thermal agitation. This is how a valence electron can send heat and electricity with charged particles called atoms.

As in a metal, electrons in the conduction band now transport current. But, a collective movement of electrons is now in the valence band, which we define as a “hole” left by the electron moving into the conduction band.

Are all Metals Good Conductors of Electricity?

Most of the metals are good conductors of electricity but not all. Aluminum, Lead, Mercury, Tungsten, Bismuth, etc., are some of the metals that are poor conductors of electricity. 

There are no free electrons or charges in these metals that can conduct electricity in a free state. Due to the locking up of the electrons into a solid structure, they come into poor conductors of electricity.

Some of them may come under resistants because of their high resistivity. In other words, they have the binding capacity with other metals to make them resistant concerning their hardness, durability, and corrosion.

Conductivity Vs. Resistivity

Conductivity and Resistivity are the two terms essential for measuring the conduction in metals. Both the terms, conductivity and resistivity, have nothing in common. 

Conductivity measures the effectiveness of electrical flow in the movement of electrons. The practical standard unit for measuring conductivity is Siemens, represented by the greek symbol sigma (σ).

So, resistivity is the property of metals that examines the strength of metal during the electric charge. We represent it through the Greek symbol rho (ρ) with the SI unit Ohm Meter.

Conductivity and resistivity have an inverse relationship with one another. A higher conductivity and a low resistance signify good conductivity. 

Which Metals are the Best Conductors of Electricity?

  • Silver

Due to the highest number of valence electrons, silver marks the best conductor of electricity among all the metals. Silver has the highest conductivity and lowest resistivity.

You cannot afford to use it much for industrial usage due to its high cost and limited supply. It has limited usage for high-end circuit boards and satellites.

  • Copper

It ranks next to silver for low resistivity and high conductivity. Its usage is wide in industrial and electrical equipment because of its lower production and maintenance cost.

Its plentifulness in the environment makes it the most preferred metal, which you can even use in large quantities for all sorts of uses.

  • Gold

Gold ranks next to copper because it also has low resistivity and high conductivity. It never corrodes or tarnishes, making it best to use on equipment for durability. 

But unfortunately, this is the most expensive metal, making it impossible to use it in large quantities. Many decades ago, people were using it for plating small connections.

Factors That Affect Conductivity of Metals

  • A decrease in temperature can alter the properties of the metal by increasing the conductivity and reducing resistivity.
  • Adding the impurities to a conductor can make it less conductive. If you oxidize silver, it will not remain as conductive as pure silver.
  • The generation of external electromagnetic fields can stop or slow down current flow because conductors generate their electromagnetic fields.
  • High Frequency can make the current flow around the conductor and thus increase the conductivity.

Is There any Non-Metal That is a Good Conductor of Electricity?

Yes, Graphite is a non-metal that is a form of carbon. The carbon atoms join together in the graphite and make the layer strong to conduct electricity. 

To become a good conductor of electricity, a substance should contain free electrons in its valence shells. 

There is an organization where carbon atoms in graphite into several sheets of hexagonal rings together. 

Each carbon atom is connected to three other carbon atoms in this arrangement, leaving one free electron in the valence shell, making it a good conductor! 

Final Thoughts

People from all across the world need metals to conduct electricity for industrial or household purposes. Have you seen the importance of atomic structure for metal to conduct electricity? It allows electric charges to pass in a free state.

Graphite, a non-metal, is a good conductor of electricity, and aluminum, a metal, is a bad conductor. Everything is dependent upon the free movement of electrons in an atomic structure.

Also, one needs to maintain high conductivity and low resistivity for an effective electrical transfer. This is why gold, silver, and copper are the best conductors of electricity. We cannot use all of them in equal proportions because of availability and affordability issues.

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